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Culture Lexture and textbook notes (Chapter 5) detailing origins of culture, language and culture, ethnocentrism and cultural relativism, defining features of Canadian culture, and sociological approaches to culture and culture change.

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Bishop's University
SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

Culture January-17-11 11:45 AM Culture: collection of values, beliefs, behaviours and material objects shared by a group and passed on from one generation to the next Origins of Culture  Cannot determine where culture began: little material evidence survives from thousands and thousands of years ago and much of culture is non material and cannot be preserved  Culture carries meaning and facilitates communication between members of society, way we predict others are going to do, have a sense of our roles, the ways be have, ways we do things that are different from other people Facilitates or inhibits social bonds, social rifts   Everything that is the product of a human mind, the sum total of human creation  Comes from relationship of physical and social environment o Is a social process influences all that people think and do  Hominid ancestors (human ancestors) began making tools and living in shelters more than 3 million years ago  Homo sapiens sapiens (modern human beings) emerged out of Africa and the near east roughly 1 million years ago.  5 defining features Culture is learned. Immersed in cultural traditions as we grow, language, attitudes, perceptions and values are all learned. Culture modifies and influences perceptions, values and perspectives. Ex. What we define as suitable food reflects what culture deems appropriate Culture is shared. Culture develops as people interact and share experiences and meanings with each other. Shared collective symbols (flag, maple leaf, RCMP) help to create and maintain group solidarity and cohesion Culture is transmitted. Cultural beliefs and traditions must be passed from generations if they are to survive. Communicating cultural traditions and beliefs is a requirement for any culture Culture is cumulative. Each generation refines and modifies cultural beliefs and builds on cultural foundation of ancestors. Culture is human. Animals are considered to be social, not cultural. Animals communicate but the reasons are defined by instinct. **Note: debate exists on the issue of whether or not animals have the ability to act according to cultural standards.  Culture can be divided into two major segments: material culture, includes tangible artefacts, physical objects and items found in society; and non-material culture, which includes a society's abstract and intangible components like values and norms. Material culture helps us adapt and prosper in diverse and challenging physical environments.  Non material culture: Values: standards by which people define what is desirable or undesirable. Attitudes about the way the world ought to be. Provide members of a society with general guidelines on what their society deems to be important. Norms: culturally defined rules that outline appropriate behaviour for a society's members. Help people know how to act in a given situation. Ex. Canadian norm that it is rude to talk with your mouth full.  Folkways: informal norms that do not inspire severe moral condemnation when violated. Ex. Walking on the left side of a busy sidewalk  Mores: norms that carry a strong sense of social importance that inspire moral condemnation when violated. Ex. Extramarital affairs  Laws: particular kind of norm that is formally defined and enacted in legislation. Sanction: anything that rewards appropriate behaviours or penalizes inappropriate ones. Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism  Ethnocentrism: tendency to view one's own culture as superior to others Restricts ability to appreciate cultural diversity  Cultural relativism: appreciating that all cultures have intrinsic worth and should be evaluated and understood on their own terms. Position that assumes no one should judge other people's customs and traditions before trying to understand them  Culture shock: feeling of disorientation, alienation, depression and loneliness that subsides when a person becomes acclimated to the new culture Progression of culture shock: Honeymoon: feeling of admiration and awe regarding new host culture and cordial interactions with locals Crisis: differences in values, signs and symbols begin to inspire feelings of confusion and disorientation that lead to feelings of inadequacy, frustration, anger and despair. Recovery: crisis is gradually resolved with growing understanding of the host culture and recognition that its values are consistent with its view of the world Adjustment: increasing ability to function effectively and enjoy the host culture despite occasional feelings of anxiety or stress. Language and Culture  All humans communicate through symbols: something that stands for or represents something else.  Language: is a shared symbol system of rules and meanings that governs the production and interpretation of space. o Language is a symbolic form of communication. No relationship between the letters c-h-a-i-r and the object chair. o Symbols must have established meanings or no one would understand the thoughts or emotions they are trying to convey.  Agreed upon meanings shared by a group of people is what distinguishes one culture from the next  When a language is lost, the culture to which it belonged loses one of its most important survival mechanisms  Languages die when dominant language groups are adopted by young people whose parents speak a traditional language  Approximately 7000 languages exist, and half of them are in danger of extinction in the next 100 years.  Each time we lose a language we lose knowledge, related cultural myths (songs, legends, poetry) and it hinders our exploration of the human mind o Cultural amnesia: lessens ability to live peacefully with diverse populations because our understanding of cultural diversity decreases. Comes from the loss of myths, beliefs, literature etc.  Sapir Whorf Hypothesis: suggests that language determines thought. o Position referred to as linguistic determinism. o What we think, experience and imagine is influenced by ou
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